Story by Tara Klein. Photos Provided by Interfaith Family Services.
A Dallas-based nonprofit is empowering families in crisis to break through the cycle of poverty. Realizing that actual change can only happen when you touch the entire family, Interfaith Family Services provides services for parents and children, helping them turn the crisis they face into a catalyst for long-term success.
CEO Kimberly Williams has been at Interfaith for the past 12 years. Her career journey includes time at Wheatland Community Learning Center, which began as a HUD initiative. She also spent time with Girl Scouts USA, where she focused primarily on helping children. After these individual experiences, Kimberly determined that assisting the whole family was the key to genuinely creating change. She believes “you can help the parents and you can help the kids, but when you help both the change is more sustainable.”
Today, Kimberly is passionate about providing holistic opportunities to help families who are vulnerable to homelessness. At Interfaith, she gets to help provide housing for families who are homeless and rent assistance to help others remain in their homes. She also gets to help expose children to various opportunities and services.
“Every child deserves an opportunity to experience as much as possible to create options when they get older,” Kimberly says.
Interfaith offers a summer school program for children at risk for homelessness as part of this effort. The program provides childcare for working moms whose kids would otherwise be left alone at home. It helps prevent the “summer slump” generally occurring when children are not exposed to educational activities for several months. The program is designed to specifically help with these two items but also with socialization and instilling a sense of volunteerism and pride in one’s community.
To accomplish this, Kimberly created the S.A.V.E. Summer Model, a summer camp curriculum designed to ensure the kids in the program do not have a typical daycare experience while there. The camp runs from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but the kids gain skills and education to advance them in school and life. The model is an acronym for:
Interfaith leaders say lives are being changed one child at a time during the summer camps. The kids walk away with a new view of their community, themselves, and their families. Their reading and math skills often improve, according to Kimberly. They experience field trips and training that are not ordinarily available to them. They also get to make new friends. Interfaith helps the kids they serve feel empowered amid circumstances that can feel overwhelming, especially for young minds.
And, for the families they serve, they do it all for free!
But they cannot do it alone. They rely on their volunteers and supporters to help make the experiences available. And that’s where you can help. Right now, they need volunteers willing to assist them in their childcare and afterschool programs. They are looking for eager individuals to come and read during story time, prepare food and snacks, and be present for the children attending.
They are also gearing up to launch a new League of Leaders program this fall. This program is designed to provide male mentors to young boys without fathers. Meeting with and mentoring them while their mother attends a life-enrichment class is a once-a-month commitment. Around 96% of the families they assist are single-mother households, so providing this service will make a huge impact.
The organization exists to empower working families, and that is exactly what they are doing. One parent at a time. One child at a time. One family at a time.
Kimberly says it may be harder to serve the whole family, but it’s worth it. Exposure opens the door to a person’s imagination and creates hope in possibilities. And every child, every parent, every family, regardless of their background, should have that opportunity. This is the heartbeat of Interfaith.
If you would like to get involved by donating or volunteering, you can do so on Interfaith’s website.